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Lockdowns don’t work, says Flight Centre CEO

written by Isabella Richards | September 1, 2021

Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner (Flight Centre)

The managing director of Flight Centre, Graham Turner, has co-written a column for The Australian denouncing the effectiveness of lockdowns in tackling COVID.

“Despite their popularity, there appears to be growing scepticism about the benefits of lockdowns and their significant costs,” wrote Turner, along with Luxury Escapes CEO Adam Schwab. “These include devastating educational impacts, widespread mental health issues, increased domestic violence, loss of basic freedoms and damaged relationships.

It comes as NSW is currently enduring its 10th week of lockdown, with Victoria in its sixth lockdown of the entire pandemic.

“Lockdowns as an idea originated in the veterinary and livestock industry, which used strict interventions to curb outbreaks such as foot-and-mouth disease in Britain in 2001,” wrote the pair. “Strategies used by the livestock sector are far stricter than even the harshest regime would adopt for humans. Infected herds are shot, burned and buried, even if only a single animal is ill. Ungulates, farmed and wild, that come into contact on a farm earn the same fate.

“Even humans who come into contact face far more severe restrictions in movement than our harshest lockdowns. This is why human lockdowns don’t appear to be overly effective – in Western countries they are simply not strict or harsh enough.”

The bosses said that Australia and New Zealand are far behind on the concept of lessening lockdowns amid vaccination increases, “while most of the world has come to its senses”.

Despite being a smaller nation, Australia has boosted its vaccination rates in a bid to end the lockdown in the last few weeks, now seeing 27.8 per cent of the population double-jabbed.


“The obvious alternative to hard lockdown is an effective vaccine, which we, fortunately, have,” the pair wrote.

“But even without the panacea of 100 per cent vaccination, social distancing, hygiene, effective contact tracing and isolation, and rapid self-testing and protection of the vulnerable work to suppress excessive fatalities.”

They added that locking down 90 per cent of the population to “possibly save some lives” has further costs, especially in light of Australia’s access to the COVID-19 vaccines.

Turner and Schwab compared Australia to Denmark, which removed all COVID-19 restrictions last week despite reporting around 1,000 daily infections, similar to NSW.

“We predict wide, hard lockdowns soon will become a thing of the past in Western nations,” they said.

“Even liberal democracies such as Denmark and Germany, have accepted this even in the face of the rising Delta infections and deaths in the unvaccinated.”

Only days ago, Fight Centre released its 2021 June fiscal year financial results, reporting a loss of $433 million.

While 35 per cent smaller than last year, the second half of the year saw improvements mostly from its international markets as border closures began lifting and restrictions eased.

Turner expects a recovery in Australia will ultimately bring Flight Centre back into profitability, but it relies heavily on politicians becoming flexible when the vaccination target is reached.

Schwab also saw revenue take a hit during the worst of the pandemic, but even when the company climbed back to near profitability in May, lockdowns stunted any more growth.

While Luxury Escapes’ Australian market plummeted, its overseas clients – especially in the US – kept the company afloat during the recent lockdowns.

Turner and Schwab said the lockdowns have continued to cause “widespread job and economic losses”, such as their own.

“We will not be able to eliminate this virus for years,” they added. “There needs to be a focus on vaccinating all those vulnerable or elderly people who want to be protected. If these people are fully vaccinated then the risk of death from Covid-19 is low.”

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Comments (6)

  • George Brown


    I guess that is why our infection and death rate due to Covid complications rival that of Spain, Italy, the UK and the USA – NOT.
    Yep, lock downs suck and are crippling the economy (most importantly, your business bottom line), but what will the total cost be to Australia for the medical care required – which is already struggling – and the emotional cost to family and friends.
    Suggest something that will work and stop the BS.

  • Neil


    “Skroo”. A good nickname. Screw the health of the nation, I want more money.

  • Peter Le Souef


    Dear Australian Aviation,
    This article on lockdowns greatly distorts a complex epidemiological issue. Yes, those who subscribe to AA would all like to be free to fly where they want to, but the consequences including overloading health services are too great until high vaccination rates are achieved. Countries that have ‘opened up’ with 70 or even 80% vaccination rates have still seen 4th waves swamp their hospitals. Please stick to issues you understand.

    • Adam Thorn


      Hi Peter,

      These aren’t necessarily ‘our’ views as Australian Aviation, but those of one of the most influential and high profile figures in the industry. I, therefore, think it’s important that his view is aired, and it’s also important to have a debate, too.

      Thanks for your comment,


  • Phil


    Could you please advise as to Mr Turner’s qualifications in respect to viral control? Additionally, from which perspective are they approaching the issue, financial or human lives?

    Would they be willing to trade the life of a loved one for a better profit margin?

  • Helen Turner


    How disgusting that the CEO of Flight Centre Graham Turner is now using threats of High Court action against states that are still catching up vaccinations after having less supplies because they were redirected to help NSW. Last time I looked the flawed Doherty Report’s 70 and 80percent markets only covered 56 and 68percent of the adult population which leaves a lot of vulnerable Australians of all ages. If the travel industry is willing to increase and spread infections and deaths for the sake of a few months and it’s bottom line then Australians are in real trouble, especially with the half baked PM and Graham Turners idea to abolish a decent amount of home quarantine. Pandering to the minority at the cost to the majority.

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